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[update] Sub hit unchartered Mountain at - 30 knots

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Postby Novagator » Thu Jan 13, 2005 12:48 pm

Admiral's e-mail says nuclear submarine impact was "incredibly hard"
By Sun news services
January 11, 2005

The nuclear submarine that ran aground Saturday in the South Pacific hit so "incredibly hard" that about 60 of its 137 crew members were injured and the sailor who died was thrown 20 feet by the impact, according to a New York Times story quoting a Navy admiral.

Messages sent by Rear Adm. Paul F. Sullivan, a former Trident submarine commander at Bangor who now commands submarine forces in the Pacific, said USS San Francisco's hull was severely damaged after the head-on crash into what Navy officials believe was an undersea mountain that was not on the navigation charts.


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One message said USS San Francisco was traveling at high speed, and the impact practically stopped it in its tracks and caused flooding in parts of the bow, according to the New York Times.

The messages by Rear Adm. Sullivan paint a more dire picture of the accident, which occurred 360 miles southeast of Guam, than had previously been disclosed. They also hint at the extensive efforts to steady the vessel and save the sailor who died.

One of the admiral's e-mails indicated that the Navy had tried to evacuate the fatally injured man, Machinist Mate 2nd Class Joseph A. Ashley, within hours after he had been thrown forward and hit his head on a metal pump, which knocked him unconscious.

Petty Officer Ashley's father, Daniel L. Ashley, said in an interview he had been told that as a helicopter hovered over the choppy seas, crew members could not maneuver a stretcher carrying his son through the submarine's hatches before he died, according to the New York Times.

"They tried numerous times to maneuver him through various hatches," Mr. Ashley said. "But it just didn't happen."

Adm. Sullivan, who is based in Hawaii, sent the e-mail messages to other Navy officials. As the messages circulated within the submarine community, two people provided copies to The New York Times, and Navy officials confirmed their authenticity.

The e-mail also indicated that about 60 crew members had been injured. All the Navy had said publicly was that 23 crew members were treated for broken bones, cuts and bruises.

The messages said those 23 were hurt seriously enough that they were unable to stand their watch duties as the submarine limped back to Guam. Mr. Ashley said the submarine's captain, Cmdr. Kevin Mooney, told him by phone on Monday that among the injured crew members, "there were a lot of broken fingers, broken arms and legs and one fractured back."

Navy officials said yesterday that the rest of the injuries were minor.

The admiral's e-mail also said an outer hull ripped open at the submarine's nose, causing flooding in a dome with sonar sensors and in four of the ballast tanks used to submerge the vessel or take it to the surface.

The flooding caused the submarine to sit deeper in the water and made it hard to maneuver on the trip back to Guam. Sailors had to keep pumping pressurized air into the tanks to prevent the water from rising and to maintain buoyancy, the New York Times reported.

An inner hull, which surrounds the crew's living and work spaces, held firm, the e-mail said. The nuclear reactor and critical propulsion systems were not damaged.

In the e-mail, Adm. Sullivan did not discuss why the vessel ran aground. The Navy is investigating, and the admiral, who ultimately will have to decide whether to reprimand any of the submarine's crew members, did not respond to requests for comment.

Navy officials have said that the submarine, which was headed for Australia, appeared to have smashed into an undersea mountain that was not on its charts. Mr. Ashley, who lives in Akron, Ohio, said Cmdr. Mooney told him the same thing on Monday.

"He said, 'On the charts we have, this is a clear area all the way through to Australia,' " Mr. Ashley told the New York Times.

Navy officials said the San Francisco was traveling at 30 knots when it careened off some part of the undersea mountain range. In one of the e-mail messages, Rear Adm. Sullivan wrote that on impact, the vessel made a "nearly instantaneous deacceleration" to about 4 knots.

Mr. Ashley said Commander Mooney told him that his son had just gotten off watch duty in the engine area and was chatting with other sailors when the accident occurred.

Mr. Ashley said his son, who was 24, "loved the Navy and that submarine" and had just re-enlisted.

Mr. Ashley said Cmdr. Mooney, who could not be reached for comment, also told him that his son's condition seemed to worsen as sailors labored to tilt the stretcher through the evacuation hatch.

Mr. Ashley said that at the end of the conversation, Cmdr. Mooney told him that he took full responsibility for the sailor's death. Mr. Ashley said he replied that he had heard all he needed "to know that you and your crew did everything you could do to save my son's life."


Woah!
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Postby eckloss » Thu Jan 13, 2005 2:50 pm

...so if the 'mountain' was uncharted, will they place blame on the officers and/or crew, or will they keep their jobs and have it all called an accident? i imagine when one of the navy's big toys gets banged up like this, someone has to take the blame...
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Postby Boss subfixer » Thu Jan 13, 2005 3:46 pm

I have two e-mails from work that I am going to forward to my home, One with pictures. I will see if I can post them later today.
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Postby Novagator » Thu Jan 13, 2005 4:51 pm

Boss subfixer wrote:I have two e-mails from work that I am going to forward to my home, One with pictures. I will see if I can post them later today.

that would be great if you could post them, if not could you email the pics to me?

johnsrx7@gmail.com
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Postby Boss subfixer » Thu Jan 13, 2005 9:01 pm

Here is the e-mail. I can't atest to the validity.I took out the e-mail addresses and cleaned up the mime format found in e-mails. Other than that the story is untouched.


Subject: E-mail from SSN 711 Sailor


All,
I got this e-mail from a friend in the navy. It has been sent around a lot
already so I cut out all the previous addressees'


Rich Olbrei

To All,
I thought that I would put out a note since a lot of you have been calling and writing to find out how things are and if I'm OK and what happened. If you hadn't heard, my boat hit a uncharted submerged sea mount at the highest speed we can go at about 500ft below the surface. There were about 30
of us that were seriously hurt and unfortunately one of my shipmates didn't make it.
First off I am OK. I am pretty beat up with my entire left side and butt as one big bruise. My shoulder is separated and may require surgery. They will evaluate later this week. I am very fortunate that I hit the wall and didn't go down a ladderwell that was right next to where I hit. If I had gone down that, I would have got really messed up. I took a tremendous shot
to my left thigh from something. If it had been slightly lower in the knee area it would have been really ugly. But all in all I am in good shape.
We hit it at about noon right after field day (where all of us clean the boat for several hours). Thank God we didn't hit while we were doing this or it would have been much worse. We would have had flying deck plates through the air and such. Not good. As it was, it happened while chow was going on and most people were either sitting and eating or on watch.
I don't remember much of the collision. People describe it as like in the movie the Matrix where everything slowed down and levitated and then went flying forward faster that the brain can process. My mind has blanked it out exactly what happened. Adrenaline kicked in and I have no real memory
of how I got down to middle level or what I did immediately following. I helped carry several shipmates to the crew mess deck (adrenaline is a wonderful thing - my shoulder was wrecked and I had no idea until about 4 hours later). I sat with several of my junior guys that had bad head wounds
and talked with them to keep them conscious until doc could see them.
It seemed like an eternity but I'm sure wasn't that long. For those Navy folks that ever wondered why Chief's stomp around and preach "Stow for Sea" This was a perfect example. It definitely saved lives. I am extremely proud of the crew to do damage control, help the wounded and get the boat safely to the surface (for the boat guys we blew the
tanks dry on the emergency blow but unbeknownst to us we were missing some ballast tanks/some didn't have integrity). The ship's control party did everything exactly right even though they were hurt as well. The Diving Officer of the
Watch had just unbuckled his belt to update a status board and hit the Ship's Control Panel hard enough to break some of the gauges. To add insult to injury his chair came up right behind him. Several people were injured in the Engine Room Lower Level area. Lots of metal and sharp edges in the area as well as that's were the boat's smoking area is at. Several crew members are re-evaluating that habit now.
Once again we got lucky in the fact that we had an extra corpsman onboard.
One of our officer's was a prior enlisted corpsman that was a Fleet Marine Force medic so he was a Godsend for us. Our Corpsman did an outstanding job getting everyone stabilized and did the best he could for our fallen shipmate. I am
surprised that he got him to hold on as long as he did.
Our corpsman is definitely a hero in my book. He didn't sleep for 2 or 3days.
We finally put him down when the SEAL docs helicoptered in to help. Like I said, I am extremely proud of my crew and how they handled themselves. My Chief of the Boat was an inspiration of what a leader should be and my Captain was as well. My XO took out an EAB manifold with his back but still
managed to help coordinate things. No matter what happens later,these men did a superior job under difficult circumstances. I am humbled by the entire crew's performance from the CO down to the Seaman that I was
checking in two days before.
For those of you wondering, I am sure there will be an investigation into what happened and no I was not part of the navigation preps for this voyage.
I work on the inertial/electronic navigation and interior
communications part of my rate and didn't have anything to do with the conventional navigation part of it. I will be lending support to my comrades who were to help them prepare for the pending investigation.
I thank you all for you concern and appreciate your prayers not only for myself, but for my shipmates. We are doing well, we band of brothers and will pull through just fine.

Thanks,

Brian Frie
Chief Electronics Technician Submarines
USS San Francisco SSN 711
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Postby Boss subfixer » Thu Jan 13, 2005 9:10 pm

Sorry guys I tried to post the pictures but I don't have a place to upload to first. I can send to someone else if they know how to do this. Meanwhile Novagator I sent them to your e-mail.I will post more if it becomes available.
BSF
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Postby expfcwintergreen » Thu Jan 13, 2005 10:00 pm

Here they are...

Image

Image

Image

Image
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Postby Seawolf » Fri Jan 14, 2005 5:48 am

my condolences and sympathy for the incident.
regarding the 'uncharted mountain', could it be a 'new mountain' emerged cause by the major earth quaken near Indonesia area?
Fiat - Jakarta (Indonesia)
sshhh.... rig ship for ultra silent..........
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Postby ogopogo » Fri Jan 14, 2005 3:19 pm

Please excuse my ignorance of the technology but, is there not a "forward-looking" sonar that should have alarmed at this unexpected protusion?
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Postby KOEZE » Fri Jan 14, 2005 4:59 pm

Sonar doesn't see anything.
Sonar listenens to souns emitted by other object at sea and even above water. IYou can also listen to the reflection of a self emitted sound (the ping) as it bounces off other objects. The thing is, the main advantage of a submarine is it's stealth. A submarine doesn't cruise around pinging away because another submarine (enemy) can determine where the sound originates.
A submarine tries to be as stealthy (read silent) as possible.
Most mountains are pretty quiet so changes are it cannot be heard.

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you get older because you stop playing.
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Postby ogopogo » Fri Jan 14, 2005 5:13 pm

ok, got that .. does it then follow that we either have most or all of the ocean floor mapped or, high-speed stealth cruising is ALWAYS inherently dangerous ?
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Postby Novagator » Fri Jan 14, 2005 7:24 pm

Thanks for the story and pics, I would love to see the pics from dry dock.
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Postby mike byers » Sat Jan 15, 2005 1:52 am

Yea, it's virtually impossible to hear anything at flank speed.

Mike
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Postby Dolphin » Sun Jan 16, 2005 5:01 pm

I hope the Skipper does not lose his job over this incident. These curcumstances are different not having what has turned out to be incomplete nav. charts. The saving of his ship performed by him and his crew was in the finest traditions and skills of the silent service. If I was in the service..I would sail with that skipper anytime. Heres one more image....Steve

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Postby Ron » Mon Jan 17, 2005 6:08 pm

I have yet to see any further updates in the press on this. A question does copme to mind though. I thought ships like this had sophisticated sonar. What happened? I do not mean this in a negative light, but its hard to understand running at that speed and not being pretty sure of your surroundings as well
as having a manned watch. Maybe someone with actual experience on these boats can clarify.

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